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Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GARDNER. I thank the gentleman from New York for his words and for his comments on sequestration, on defense spending, on the challenges that we face in this country. I also want to thank the Speaker, who is our colleague from Alabama, for her work in making sure that we are providing the leadership necessary for our Armed Forces.

The gentleman from Virginia mentioned a key word. He mentioned the word ``leadership.'' The leadership is obvious that this House has shown in making sure that we are strengthening and keeping our defense strong in this Nation while also addressing the very serious crisis that we face with our national debt and deficit: passing a reconciliation plan, working with Members of this House to make sure that we come up with ways to find spending cuts, to reduce spending but to do so in a way that is responsible, to do so in a way that provides the leadership that our Armed Forces deserve and that the people of this country deserve.

Last week, a week ago yesterday, I had the incredible opportunity to go to the Iwo Jima Memorial where I was able to join over 100 veterans from my district in northern Colorado who had served in World War II and the Korean war. These veterans came from Greeley, Fort Collins, and from across the State's eastern plains. They were there to spend one day in Washington to visit the World War II Memorial and to visit the various monuments that are here in their honor for their service and their sacrifice.

I met three brothers who served on the same ship in the Korean war. I met a gentleman who was 92 years old who had never been on an airplane since his time in World War II. As I was leaving, as they were departing for their bus, a gentleman who was 85 years old came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder. He stopped me and I turned around.

He said, You know, I don't have much time left here--I really didn't know where he was going and what he was talking about--but he said, We're counting on you.

And I've thought about that. I thought long and hard about those words: ``we're counting on you'' to do the right thing, to do what is right for our country, to do what is right for our military, to do what is right for our men and women across this country who go to work each and every day to try to make ends meet but who are protected by people they've never met around the globe.

There is no doubt that we have a very serious fiscal challenge in front of us. There is no doubt that we are $15 trillion in debt. There is no doubt that $1.5 trillion deficits must make tough decisions around this place happen. The one thing that we cannot do is jeopardize the safety and security of this country and put our men and women in uniform at risk.

I am somebody who has come to the House floor time and time again, who has gone back to the district, and who has stood with many of my colleagues--with the gentleman from New York--to say, You know what? I believe we can reduce spending at the Department of Defense. I believe there are ways that we can reduce spending. We can find waste, abuse. We can reduce duplicative programs, including those programs that may be within the Department of Defense. But we can never, never jeopardize the security of this country, the security of our men and women in uniform--those people who are serving on the front lines of freedom around the world--by cutting too far and too deep.

The question that, I think, every American and every person in this Chamber ought to be asking is: Where is the leadership from the White House? Where is the plan to avoid these cuts that jeopardize not only our men and women but the very security of this country? Where is that plan to avoid very costly cuts that jeopardize the future of this Nation?

We passed a plan out of this Chamber to reduce spending by $1.2 trillion but to do so in a way that provides the leadership that this Nation desperately needs.

Our men and women are standing up around this country--those men and women I met at the Iwo Jima Memorial a week ago, who stood in the trenches in Korea and World War II, who are counting on us to do what is right. Their legacy of freedom didn't end when the wars ended. It continues to this very day as they stand with their brothers and sisters in arms to make sure that this country has the ability to protect and defend itself.

Ultimately, the leadership provided by this House will make sure that we continue to fund our defense, that we continue to fund our men and women in uniform appropriately, and that our national security will remain protected against any and all threats. I believe the Secretary of Defense has even recognized the grave challenges that the sequestration poses for our men and women in uniform. But I think it's time the question be asked to the President of the United States:

Mr. President, where is your plan to protect our men and women in uniform? Where is your plan to continue the great protection of this country?

While my colleague from New York and my colleague from Virginia come and speak about the great risks and challenges that we face, everybody recognizes that we have to address our debt-and-deficit situation. It reminds me of a time when Zell Miller, a Senator from Georgia, asked the question: What are we going to do? Are we going to provide the ammunition for our men and women in uniform with spitballs, or are we going to do what is right, by providing them the ability to defend themselves?

With that, I thank again our colleague from Alabama (Mrs. Roby) for her leadership on this very important issue.

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Mr. GARDNER. I know our friend from Virginia talked about the concerns of the Secretary of Defense, yet we still have no plan from this White House on how to deal with the very serious problem that faces our troops and jeopardizes our country's security.

I thank the gentlelady from Alabama for her leadership tonight.

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